Interesting article in the New York Times yesterday: In Suburban Seattle, New Nests for China’s Rich
…increasingly, China’s rich are also offshoring their families along with their cash. That’s created a real estate boom in an unlikely corner of the United States: suburban Seattle.
Wealthy Chinese have become far and away the biggest foreign buyers of real estate in Seattle in recent years, accounting for up to one-third of $1-million-plus homes sold in certain areas, brokers say. Seattle real estate agents are hiring Mandarin speakers and even opening offices in Beijing. Builders are designing much of their new construction for Chinese buyers.
That’s made Seattle one of the world’s top catch basins for the billions of dollars spilling out of China every year. While foreign money has also been pouring into New York, Los Angeles and London real estate, the impact of the Chinese rich on Seattle is far more concentrated, focused on a few small, upscale suburbs. They’re especially attracted to Medina — home to Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos — and the West Bellevue area. “The first question you often hear from Chinese clients is ‘Where does Bill Gates live?'” said Moya Skillman, a broker with Windermere Real Estate.
Brokers and analysts say 20 to 40 percent of $1 million-plus homes sold on the Eastside — a collective term for eastern suburbs of Seattle — were purchased by Chinese buyers.
A $1.1 million listing in West Bellevue recently attracted 24 bidders, virtually all of them Chinese, and the home quickly sold for $1.4 million. Ms. Wan said a $2.5 million lakefront property recently sold with three offers, just days after coming onto the market.
There are a lot of anecdotes in the story, while the only data they cite is the “20 to 40 percent” number from “brokers and analysts.” I’d be interested to know more about exactly how they’re defining that and where they’re getting the data from.
Here’s some data I pulled on single-family sales volume over the last three months in King County and across some of the popular upscale eastside zip codes.
|zip code||area||sales||$1M+ sales||% $1M+|
|98008||West Lake Sammamish||82||7||9%|
|98075||East Lake Sammamish||150||27||18%|
|All of King County||6,420||502||8%|
So taking the high end of the “20 to 40 percent” estimate, we’re talking about around 50 sales in the last three months, out of 6,400 county-wide—0.8 percent of all sales.
The story is certainly interesting, but I’d hardly call it a trend that’s likely to affect many homebuyers in the Seattle area.
I did like this part though:
Their attraction to Seattle stems from its top schools, clean air, longtime Chinese population and, more recently, a hit movie. The 2013 film “Beijing Meets Seattle” (or “Finding Mr. Right” in English) became one of China’s top-grossing films of all time, telling the story of a pregnant woman who flies to Seattle to find true love and American citizenship for her baby. The film struck a chord with younger Chinese, who saw Seattle as a liberating, romantic escape from the intense materialism of China (even though much of the movie was filmed in Vancouver).
“People my age in China suddenly started talking about Seattle,” said Bangze Wang, a Beijing native who now lives in Seattle.
I fully expect the movie to be fairly terrible, but I kind of want to see it now. Anyone up for a viewing party?